Lourens River helps with drought crisis

The Lourens River is a mere 24km from its headwaters in the Hottentots Holland Mountains east of Somerset West, to the mouth, where it debouches into False Bay at the western end of Strand Beach, and it ranges in flow from a desultory trickle in mid-summer, to a healthy torrent during the rainy season.

A welcome source of pleasure to the many Somerset West residents who walk along its grassy banks in Radloff Park, the Lourens River can, on occasion, show its dark side.

In August and November 2013, torrential rain caused the river to burst its banks, and it wreaked havoc along its course, prompting a detailed engineering study, which has lead to a phased flood alleviation project.

Water has been abstracted from the Lourens River for purification for decades, and in the present drought, its contribution is all the more important.

In response to an enquiry from Bolander, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg, confirmed after the recent repair of a pump and flow meter, the City would be abstracting three million litres (ML) of water a day from the Lourens River, up from 1.5ML a day.

“We have to be cautious not to over-abstract, however, as this is a protected natural system (the river was declared a protected natural environment (PNE) in 1997),” said Ms Limberg. “There are two abstraction sites – one at the Lourensford Estate which we have recently reinstated, and another situated downstream at Radloff Park, which has a reservoir that overflows back to the river when the pumps are not in use. 

“We do not pump continuously (at night) as there are complaints about the noise levels.”

Asked whether the City has any plans for further exploiting water from the Lourens River, perhaps by damming it, Ms Limberg said: “The City intends to perform a feasibility study into diverting the flow to either the Paardevlei Dam, a proposed flood attenuation dam, or directly to the Faure water treatment plant.”